I am now practising international law with a firm named McMillan, which has offices in Hong Kong, Vancouver, Ottawa, and other places, but I am confident that the reason the committee invited me is that I resided in Taiwan for 10 years and did business throughout the Pacific Rim. I also had the honour of being one of the first two Canadians who served at the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei, so there is some history there. We've heard, throughout the day, about the arrangements that led to that rather interesting office.
Ironically, when I received your invitation, I was putting the finishing touches on a book, Seeking Excellence in Leadership, criticizing the effectiveness and relevance of committees, and here you are, studying something that could not be more relevant to people who want to do business and invest in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Israel. For obvious reasons, I will be focusing on the Taiwan part of the agreement.
I lived in Taiwan between 1986 and 1997, a very eventful decade. When I arrived, martial law was in force, and when I left, they had an independent judiciary, free elections, free newspapers, freely trading currency, and people who could freely travel to mainland China. Just note the number of times I used “free” in that sentence. It is truly one of the world's most robust democracies.
Voting participation rates in the last five Taiwan presidential elections have averaged over 76%, and they have very high-calibre, well-educated leaders to serve: for instance, in the persons of Ma Ying-jeou, the past president, and Tsai Ing-wen, the current president. She has achieved international fame as the first female president of Taiwan—and, after last weekend, someone who knows how to place an important phone call.